The US Federal Communications Commissions, by all accounts, is set to vote today (Dec. 14) to repeal the net neutrality regulations enshrined by the previous administration. If successful – and that could be a very big if – internet service providers could gleefully start figuring out ways to royally mess up your ability to stream videos or music or even shop from your favourite sites without back-door arrangements to ensure they’re getting paid to provide fast access to sites.
There are some 11th hour efforts to stop this.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman – the man who takes on ticket bots on the regular — and nearly a dozen of his fellow litigators are trying to stop the FCC from voting this week on the proposed changes. They’ve launched an investigation into the number and source of fraudulent letters received by the FCC and are working to delay the vote on the grounds that the FCC isn’t playing by the rules.
“Millions of fake comments have corrupted the FCC public process — including two million that stole the identities of real people, a crime under New York law,” Schneiderman says in a statement released Wednesday. “Yet the FCC is moving full steam ahead with a vote based on this corrupted process, while refusing to cooperate with an investigation. As we’ve told the FCC: moving forward with this vote would make a mockery of our public comment process and reward those who perpetrated this fraud to advance their own hidden agenda. The FCC must postpone this vote and work with us to get to the bottom of what happened.”
Remember when the public comment period first opened and John Oliver went on Last Week Tonight and set up a shortcut website so people could more easily submit comments, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the comment portal was basically hijacked by hackers and that those comments were submitted incorrectly and wouldn’t be counted? This is kind of the same thing, only on the opposite side.
Artists, actors, media organizations, politicians and others have come out in strong support of the current regulations, which regulate the internet as a utility and prohibit such practices as throttling, or purposely slowing down internet speeds unless websites pay a “toll.”
Schneiderman and his team say that more than 5,000 people have notified his office that their identities were used to submit fake comments encouraging the repeal of the current net neutrality rules. There’s even a website, ag.ny.gov/FakeComments, to see if your name was used without your permission.
“Attorney General Schneiderman’s latest analysis shows that as many as two million comments misused the identities of real Americans, including over 100,000 comments per state from New York, Florida, Texas and California,” his office says. “Despite widespread evidence that the public comment process was corrupted, the FCC’s General Counsel has said that the agency will not cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation into the impersonation of New Yorkers, and that it will move forward with tomorrow’s scheduled vote.”
The Associated Press reports that the broadband industry “promises that the internet experience isn’t going to change, but its companies have lobbied hard to overturn these rules,” referring to the current protections. “Protests have erupted online and in the streets as everyday Americans worry that cable and phone companies will be able to control what they see and do online.”
The general expectation is that, once the FCC votes along party lines, 3-2, in favour of repealing the current regulations and starting the process of applying the new proposed ones, the odds are good that this will end up in court. Legal challenges are not just expected, they’re probably already drafted, just waiting for the vote to come in for the documents to be filed.
Let the games begin.